Three‐dimensional structure of the bronchial microcirculation in sheep

Dean E. Schraufnagel, David B. Pearse, Wayne A. Mitzner, Elizabeth M. Wagner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Background: The bronchial circulation affects both pulmonary vascular and airway activity. Fundamental to understanding the role of the bronchial microcirculation in health and disease is understanding its anatomy. This study sought to identify specific structural elements that might contribute to the drop that occurs between the systemic blood pressure of the bronchial artery and the low pressure of the pulmonary bed into which the bronchial circulation flows and to better describe the connections of the bronchial and pulmonary circulations. METHODS: To do this, the lungs of five sheep were cast by injecting a resin through bronchial and pulmonary arteries. After taking samples for light microscopy, the tissue was digested and the casts were viewed with a scanning electron microscope. RESULTS: Casts of extrapulmonary bronchial arteries were structurally similar to other systemic arteries. Tortuous ones spiraled around bronchi and large blood vessels. Intrapulmonary bronchial arteries, about 100–300 μm in diameter, had sharp branching and deep focal constrictions with great rugosity that completely shut off the flow of the resin. These vessels correspond to the Sperrarterien described by von Hayek (and could cause the resistance associated with the pressure drop). Vasa vasorum ran in the walls of intrapulmonary pulmonary arteries for a variable distance before they entered the lumens of the pulmonary arteries. The smallest blood vessel found that was supplied with vasa vasorum was a bronchial artery 42 μm in diameter. Capillary‐like networks with large luminal diameters were found on the pleural surface. CONCLUSIONS: Scanning electron microscopy of microvasular casts provides a fresh description of the bronchial circulation, further delineates the communications of these two circulations, and may structurally account for some pressure drop between the bronchial and pulmonary circulations. © 1995 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-366
Number of pages10
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 1995


  • Bronchial circulation
  • Corrosion casting
  • Microscopy
  • Pulmonary artery
  • Pulmonary circulation
  • Sheep
  • electron
  • scanning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Three‐dimensional structure of the bronchial microcirculation in sheep'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this